NL East Preview: 2 weeks to Spring Training

As of today, the NL East projects to be a very competitive battle. According to FanGraphs Depth Chart projections every team, except perhaps the Marlins, should be firmly in the running. Currently, the Mets are the favorites to win the division, but let’s break it down position by position.

Rotation

The Mets rotation is already projected the best of the group, but they actually could be scored higher if Noah Syndergaard (likely returning around mid-year) were included. The Marlins are rated the lowest, but definitely have some high upside arms. The Nationals rotation should be solid as usual, but the 4/5 spots may be issues and the injury bug has hit them hard of late. The Phillies rotation is very top heavy with Nola and Wheeler projected for the majority of the groups WAR. That brings us to the Braves, who I believe are criminally underrated. Fried is projected for 2.8 WAR after putting up 1.5 WAR in just 11 starts in 2020 and 3.0 WAR in 2019. Mike Soroka is projected for 1.9 WAR after a 4.0 WAR 2019 season. Charlie Morton is projected for 3.2 WAR after a 6.1 WAR 2019. Anderson being a rookie and Smyly transitioning back to starting are questionable, but I believe they too will outshine their projections of 1.5 and 1.4, respectively.

Lineup

For the lineups, I included the teams most likely DH at the end, but did not include them in the WAR calculation as these players are included in the bench section. By the slimmest of margins, the Mets edged the Braves for the top spot here. This is a very tight race, other than the Marlins, but all 4 teams have a talented core with some question marks at the bottom. Anything could change before opening day, but whichever team makes the big addition will likely take the “offseason trophy” in this area. For example, Marcell Ozuna’s projected 3.3 WAR would likely push the Braves out of reach of the rest of the teams, projections wise.

Bullpen

The Braves electric bullpen from 2020 has lost a few key pieces in Darren O’Day, Shane Greene and Mark Melancon. This could definitely change, but as of now they’re still projected as the second-best unit in the NLE, again behind the Mets. Diaz and May make up the majority of the Mets projection, but they have some high upside big names. The Nationals acquisition of Brad Hand should help them out and the Phillies added Bradley and Alvarado, but that pen has been a dumpster fire the past few years, much like the 2019 Braves. This is the one area I expect the most change from now to opening day. If Grant Dayton is in fact in consideration, I’d rather see someone with higher upside like Sean Newcomb or Huascar Ynoa get the spot.  

Bench

I expect that every team will have 2-3 names on this list that won’t end up making the roster. With good reason too, as 3 of the 5 teams are projected for negative WAR from their bench units. Personally, I wouldn’t be upset to see a completely different 5 names on the Braves side.

Summary

All in all, the Mets are projected to take the paper crown, but the Nats, Braves and Phillies aren’t far behind. One injury or big acquisition could change this race entirely. Additionally, I wouldn’t count the Marlins out just yet. They may be young but they have talent and upside and they won’t lay down and die before the season ends. Looking at these numbers, I feel confident that with the right moves the Braves can be setup well for a 4th straight NL East crown. As things sit today, however, the odds are questionable and will likely hinge on how the Braves 6-9 hitters play to determine how far they can go.

Author: Matt P

Hello, I’m Matt Pocza! I am a 4th year finance and economics student at the University of Florida and I love the Atlanta Braves. I’ve played baseball my entire life, and I am a sidearm pitcher for the club team at Florida. I also enjoy scuba diving, football and business. Follow me on twitter @braves_rumors!

33 thoughts on “NL East Preview: 2 weeks to Spring Training”

  1. Update on the new Hammers Tees:

    The final design is done. Since many others stole the original design and put it on their site (here’s looking at you, BreakingT), we are working on protecting the design before publishing. You guys, it looks great and it will be the property of Braves Journal!

    Proceeds will be going to Hank’s charity and it’s going to be a lot of work for me as I’m taking all orders and shipping all orders so if I’m a bit MIA the next few weeks, you’ll know why.

    I’ll likely be able to share the final design tomorrow and if you haven’t put your name in for a shirt, you can shoot me an email (cothrjr at gmail) and I’ll get you in the queue. No $ exchanged until shirts are in. The shirts are a poly-cotton blend which is a more athletic fit so it might be necessary to upsize if you are in-between sizes.

    *If you’re not into the poly-cotton blend, find a good royal blue shirt on Amazon that you like and you can either ship it to me, or I can purchase it for you and just tag it on the total cost.

    On Ozuna: He ain’t getting $88MM and Braves would be dumb to give it to him. 4/$70MM would be highest I’d go.

  2. Last note on Hammers tees. I promised Coop a long-sleeve tee of some sort a while back, but my company here left me hanging. If you are a long-sleeve person and would like a Hammers long-sleeve tee, you can also shoot me an email and I can make that happen. Sorry, Coop. Life got in the way of getting back to you.

  3. Thanks, Matt! I will literally bet all of my money — every red cent — that the Mets will suffer some major injuries and fail to meet those totals. They do every single blessed year.

  4. Hey crew! Let’s see your budget fillers for this roster if AA decides not to make a big splash in free agency or trade. Here’s mine:
    •Brad Miller
    •Travis Shaw
    •Jackie Bradley, Jr.
    •Mark Melancon

  5. Nice analysis. With Cruz off the board now, Ozuna is all there is for high upside. Even if Ozuna is signed, he may still DH and I bet that Waters is being counted on to jump in and take off. A Waters/Pache/Acuna OF would certainly play great defense. I also think Adam Duvall could come back too. That would make the bench look a lot better. I think it’s really odd that so many FA have signed and yet none of Duvall, Greene, or Melancon have (since they are all positive assets). Duvall would be a great hedge on Waters’ success.

    I would also put Contreras on the bench instead of Jackson.

    My budget adds would be Duvall and either Melancon or Greene. Beyond that, adding Contreras and Waters along with Wright and Wilson in some capacity would bring upside and depth to the roster.

    And subtracting Ender might be an overall addition-by-subtraction unless he can magically start to hit again.

  6. It’s going to be a real shame when they add the DH to the NL at the last moment as a safety protocol and all these NL teams are left scrambling because everyone involved in the negotiations are acting like angry raccoons.

  7. Yeah, it would suck if a NL team had signed Nelson Cruz and then the NL didn’t get the DH. Where would you put him then? You would almost have to have an open 1B spot for whoever you had signed to be your DH or something. Signing Ozuna now with Waters as LF insurance wouldn’t be the worst way to proceed. There will probably also be a Duvall-type late in FA where if you grabbed Ozuna, we got the DH, and then didn’t like Waters, you could pivot to Duvall.

    FWIW, I don’t really like the DH-only types since I would think you should want to use the DH to give your position players rest throughout the season.

  8. Glad Cruz signed elsewhere. I enjoy rooting for players (and managers) who I like, not jerks, crooks, present or past PED users, or ex-sign-stealing Astros, even if they’re good players. I realize some Braves and ex-Braves fall into those categories, but I’d rather the team have as few of them as possible.

  9. Contreras will not start the year in the bigs as he needs to be held back about 30 days for service-time manipulation reasons. I actually expect Flowers to return in a hybrid player/coach role transitioning to coach as the season progresses. AJ would hit 20+ homers in a regular role but with a sub-300 on base percentage and average defense really isn’t much of an asset.

  10. Agree that Waters isn’t ready. I’m not convinced that Contreras or Pache is, either. But I strongly believe that they should only be in the majors if they’ll start. They’ll never learn major league pitching if they’re only playing twice a week. If the Braves are willing to let ’em loose and let ’em fail, I’m raring to go. But the gloves have to be off.

  11. The final design!

  12. If you are interested in the new logo on a long-sleeve, hit me up and I’ll let you know what to do.

  13. @3 it’s bound to happen, isn’t it?

    @5 fwiw I would’ve also gone contreras over jackson but I went with fangraphs roster projections

  14. A couple of the new design in both the long and short sleeve, 2xl please. And if the old, rascals ripped it off design is still available, I would also like a long sleeve 2xl in that also.

    Thanks, Ryan.

  15. @22 and 23

    FWIW, it was a subtle slip-in and most didn’t notice, but I figured “baldheaded1der” would’ve given it away that it’s not me.

  16. I think they will start Contreras at Triple A as they see him as the potential starting catcher for the big league club in 2022 and he needs more PAs.

    I think they will see if AJ is worthy of a backup catcher spot and he doesn’t really have anything else to learn in the minor leagues. Flowers is getting old.

  17. Anybody with a recap of where you can watch the Braves on Bally SportsSouth (and / or SouthEast)? Are any streaming options available? I got YouTube TV last year specifically because it was the one streaming service with live sports in large enough quantities to have the Braves, SEC Network, and the back channels of ESPN.

  18. And, I may have already mentioned this, but if any of you are in the hinterlands (as I am) and want better internet service and don’t have a good wire or cable to which to attach, check in with your area’s tractor GPS supplier. The odds are they directly or on subcontract have a fairly high volume data connection via microwave. Mine starts at 6 MB, then goes to 9, then goes to 12 (different pricing and equipment). That is nothing like a piece of fiber (like I have at my office) but it meets the standards of the old DSL / Uverse connections. The one potential problem is it has to be line of sight to a tower. Thus, if you are down in trees, you might have to put up a tower. At 6 MB you can stream a wide screen in HD (that by itself uses 4) and also run a laptop.

  19. The Mets seem to be the frontrunner for Bauer.

    Sandy Alderson better search Bauer’s text messages.

  20. Boy, do they ever deserve each other. Talented as he is, Bauer’s the exact kind of thin-skinned prima donna who thinks he deserves to be in New York and then spits out the bit.

    I look forward to facing him right after his first New York Post back cover.

  21. All I can say for Trevor Bauer is that he better have some Reggie Jackson in him.

    If he’s going to be me-me-me, he better perform & he better win.

    Otherwise, this town can be a rough ride. It definitely ain’t Ohio.

  22. Trevor Bauer
    O man, could he glower
    but for Ronald Acuna
    he praised his mighty oppo tonk, not later but sooner.

    do you remember, off his fellow starter for sure, but generous in the immediacy of a losing cause?

    an oppo tonk
    you first hear the bonk
    then try follow the flight
    Oooos and aaaahs encrusted in the night.

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